I became what I was meant to be. I built myself a life. I built myself a house. ~Life as a House
When we sold our house last year, our sweet Realtor sat us down at the beginning of the process to explain this was a business transaction only. She said sometimes clients get upset because they don’t necessarily like the new people who will live in their house. She advised to separate ourselves emotionally from the house so we could sell it. We laughed. We told her we weren’t attached. We understood the process. We liked the house. But it was just a house. It was our shelter, nothing more.
The truth is, I’ve never been emotionally attached to a house. We moved about every three years when I was a kid. All these moves were within the Russellville city limits, so my life wasn’t disrupted in any way. They were just new addresses. It was as simple as that.
Change can be so constant you don’t even feel the difference until there is one. It can be so slow that you don’t even notice that your life is better or worse, until it is. Or it can just blow you away, make you something different in an instant. It happened to me. ~Life as a House
Until I was 16. That was when I went live with my grandparents. The two years with them were tough. That grandmother doesn’t like me much. I don’t think she likes anybody much. It’s not easy to live in a house with a woman who so openly despises you. My teen angst did nothing to improve the situation. My mom did the best she could to keep the peace between all of us, but there was no way around how miserable I was living there.
The house itself was a paradox. My grandfather built it himself with great love, but he was an 80 per center, meaning most of his projects were about 80 per cent done. The house was no exception. Few of the light switches had cover plates. Door frames were made of multiple kinds of trim. Paint almost matched. These were the things you noticed if you ever saw past the piles of junk everywhere. My grandmother could give the people on “Hoarders” a run for their money. If you dared move anything or clean, she would berate you. As if the inside weren’t bad enough, she painted the outside red. Fire engine red. There was a burned out trailer across the dirt road and some shacks on the property some distant relatives would take up residence in from time to time.
While I’ve never attached myself to any property, this house somehow attached itself to me. I was ashamed to live there. I know what a bad grandchild it makes me to admit that. But I was. Very few friends ever saw where I lived. Some looked at me differently once they knew where I was from. A few made white trash jokes. What could I say? I lived in that red house. A sliver of that shame has stuck with me for most of my life. I’m the girl who lived in the red house. And even if no one else knew, I did.
I have hated this house from the moment my father put it in my name. Imagine, 29 years of hating what you’re living in, hating what you are. This is the end of it, Sam. I’m finally building something of my own. ~Life as a House
Honestly, I try not to think about that time very much now. I ran as far and as fast as I could from that red house the moment I graduated high school. I went to college, then to grad school. I got married. I’ve had some success in my career. We’re raising a great kid, and he lives in a comfortable, clean house. (I’m calling it clean even if there is laundry piled in my living room.)
Somehow the red house came up in conversation the other day with a group of friends. I told them I could never be too big for my britches because I’d lived in a red house, and you never get over that. I’ve been thinking a lot about it since then. It bothers me that nearly 20 years later, it still bothers me I lived there.
With every crash of every wave, I hear something now. I never listened before. I’m on the edge of cliff… listening… almost finished. If you were house, Sam, this is where you would want to be built: on rock, facing the sea, listening… listening. ~Life as a House
I don’t know if anyone ever overcomes her raising. I don’t really believe there’s a reason for everything. I think a lot of stuff happens for no reason at all. But maybe being the girl who lived in the red house has made me more empathetic to others. Maybe it pushed me further than I would have gone otherwise. Maybe everyone has a red house.
All I really know is this is the part of my life where I stand still and listen. I’ve finally stopped running from the red house. I know my feet are on rock, so I’m solid. And for the first time, I have faith I will hear.